Saturday 20th May 2017 ko 15.30
South Wales FA Playoff for South Wales Alliance
VALE UNITED 4 (Tominey 35 63p 86 Gregory 71)
LLANHARRY 2 (TJ Jones 18 Davies 86)
Att 116 at Pentre Park
With the merger of the South Wales Senior and Amateur Leagues to form the South Wales Alliance a kink in the ladder in the Welsh footballing pyramid was ironed out. However in doing so another partial blockage was created, for clubs wishing to seek promotion to the Alliance. The South Wales FA’s solution to it is nothing if not ingenious though.
There are three places for promoted clubs in the South Wales Alliance and this season saw 4 clubs eligable for promotion. They were the Cardiff Combination winners STM Sports Old Boys ( a breakaway club from Welsh League outfit STM Sports), Rhondda & District League winners Blaenrhondda, Bridgend & District winners Llanharry, and Vale of Glamorgan League champions Vale United.
The method of turning 3 into 4 was to play an inverted play-off system. There would be semi-finals at Trefforest FC on consecutive days with the winners of each tie being automatically promoted. The losing teams would play-off at Rhydyfelin’s new ground at Fairfield Lane for the one remaining place on this day, the 20th May.
The problem ended up being the weather; both “Semi-finals” were postponed due to waterlogging, so the FA thought cleverly, placing the STM/Blaenrhondda game at Rhydyfelin, and booking Pentre Park, in Pentre, near Ton Pentre for the other game. The “Last Chance” final was to be played on the 3G at Ystrad Mynach the next Wednesday.
Now I can almost hear your question, “Who plays at Pentre Park?” and I asked Welsh Football magazine editor Dave Collins exactly that question! The answer is noone, so on the basis that would create an unusual and possibly unique visit (or “tick” in groundhopper parlance) I made for the northern end of the valleys.
If you find the ground on Google Maps, you’ll find a fairly typical municipal old-style artificial pitch in a cage just off the main road. However the pitch has just been upgraded to modern 3G and the changing room block refitted. It is that changing room block that I suspect is why no adult side calls Pentre Park home. There are changing rooms and no more; there is no clubhouse, bar, social club, or even spectator toilets. The facility is designed for roll-on/roll-off football, and whilst it’s more or less useless for a club wanting to put down roots, it was ideal for an FA wanting to get an overdue game played.
Now here’s a ground hopping top tip, when you’re in the Ton Pentre/ Treorchy area, you really ought to get your lunch at the chippy called “A Fish Called Rhondda.” There’s 2 branches, the larger in Ton Pentre, the other in Treorchy and with there being no catering at all at Pentre Park it proved to be a popular starting point for the afternoon’s fun. The big surprise for this game was the setting. Caged 3G pitches tend to be dull, but the backdrop in just about any direction made this a quite amazing setting.
Back at the ground the nerves were obvious. The referee placed the corner flags with almost indecent precision so their bases exactly matched the corner markings, then watched as the players wiped out one of the flags during the game. The game belied it’s level, the 8th tier of Welsh Football, with both sides playing, and yes tackling with gusto.
Without question the pivotal moment came with the Vale penalty. The Llanharry keeper Ryan Woodland picked the ball up, bounced it, caught it then proceeded to wipe out the Vale forward who challenged him. There’ll never be a more straightforward penalty awarded, or perhaps a more bizarre one. The frustrations crept into Llanharry’s play, and in the end Vale were deserved winners. They celebrated their promotion, and Llanharry pondered their appearance in the “Consolation Final” versus it transpired, STM Sports Old Boys.
Llanharry’s disappointment though was short-lived as they beat STM 2-1 at Ystrad Mynach, joining Vale and Blaenrhondda in South Wales Alliance Division 3. Congratulations to the 3 successful clubs, and see you on a future Welsh Hop. To STM Sports Old Boys commiserations and the best of luck for next season.